Take the same path to the office every day? Do the same exercises and work the same muscles? Write on the same topic?
I personally have a tendency to do all these things, mostly because I don’t have to think twice. But habit is such a rut-creating experience that atrophies curiosity and strength over time.
To allay boredom, I’ve been taking a new route to work each day this week. A change of scenery has made the work path more exciting. I’ve also stopped doing daily pushups because I injured my shoulder. Self-inflicted wounds are telltale signs to stop doing what you’re doing. Instead, I do more sprints with my dog. And I’ve been publishing less on Tumblr, saving those pieces for an end of week recap.
Boredom is the enemy. Sameness destroys creativity. Newness stimulates the brain. The next thing I need to renew is my daily meditation. Even that’s become a desultory routine.
Every habit can be broken down into three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward. The cue can be a location, an emotional state, a person or group of people, an event—practically anything. For Duhigg’s cookie habit, it was the time of day. The routine is the action that constitutes the habit: eating a cookie or whatever. The reward is the pleasure associated with the habit. To change a habit, all you have to do is “keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine.” That’s it, more or less. That’s the secret.
Every afternoon, I’ll go out and grab a cup of coffee. The break is my cue. The coffee is my routine, and I get rewarded with the happiness that comes from sipping it.
Some days I don’t even need that cup of afternoon coffee. My energy and focus is intact. While I’m not going to necessarily change this coffee habit – trust me, I’ve got some real vices I want to tackle first – it does make me realize that all I need to do is replace the routine (the coffee) with something else equally gratifying as a replacement.
I don’t know what that replacement is right now. Coffee is hard to replace since nothing really has the same immediate impact of being both a mental boost and a relaxer.
William James said it best, “We are mere bundles of habits.” To which he added, “New habits can be launched.”
Since bad habits can be fixed, new habits offer pieces of hope. Thank goodness.
Routines just work. Whether it’s exercise or leaving for work at the same time every day, we structure our lives around to-dos that put us on automatic.
Stuff gets done, we’re generally happy for crossing them off the list, and then we move on and do them again.
But routines stifle creativity. Staying open to other possibilities makes room for further improvement and happiness. For example, if you can no longer run you may find that walking and weightlifting can be a powerful substitute. As a result, you may also adopt a healthier diet to stave off weight.
Deviation doesn’t have to be so extreme though. Something as simple as going a different route to work can make you think differently.
When you change behavior, you learn new things and grow. That’s why failure is so impactful; failure tests your ability to adapt to complete newness.
When you change up routines, you also change your perspective which prevents you from getting bored.
If you’re feeling stuck, it’s probably because you’re doing the exact same thing every day. One slight tweak can make all the difference.